What Is Wrong With Christian Hip-Hop Radio and DJs

Before I go any further… I respect the heart and the intentions of everyone involved. Some things do need to change.

I’d expect this to be an ongoing dialog. Please check back and drop your comments. I’d like to hear what you think. If this hurts your feelings, cool off a minute before you respond. I do expect to step on some toes but only because I care.

I’ll be honest… I’ve never been impressed with Christian Hip-Hop Radio and DJs on the whole. There are some exceptions, of course, but overall it’s been a conglomeration of disorganized people. Everyone involved has dropped the ball. For everyone who says “it’s ministry”… why is everything done so poorly? We should be embarrassed on many levels.

Getting back to the basics is where everything needs to go. Unfortunately, there are few great examples available to show how to do it “right”. Let’s hope that changes. I am a bit disappointed in the progress of the whole scene in this area. Sure we have a ton of new programs, podcasts, mobile DJs etc… but not a lot of growth in the following areas.

REPORTING

This goes hand in hand with the next topic I’ll share about. Reporting has always been poor at best. My personal experience is that I can send out music to about 400 DJs and radio programs playing Christian hip-hop. If I get anything… and I mean anything from 10% of that group, it’s something of a miracle. 10% SUCKS! If I have a “hot” album or track, I know well over half will call… email… text etc to ask about it. Conversely, a College Radio campaign I’ll run will see a 50-80% response rate. We can do better. If you really care, do better.

We’ve always fought an uphill battle for the format in general. Labels and artists are not going to take you seriously if you do not report to them. Develop better habits.

DJ Rhino has been the most consistent DJ I’ve worked with this year. He keeps me on my toes by asking for new music, instrumentals and other stuff. I gladly give him whatever he asks for because I hear from him EVERY WEEK. Not twice a month or whenever he feels like it… every week. He gives me a play list and also some feedback. I write him back sometimes with questions and (gasp) he replies!

We work together to serve his audience.

COMMUNICATION

There is quite a bit of overlap with what I wrote about above. Let’s face it… Labels in our scene are terrible with it. So are DJs, unless they have something to complain about. Real talk.

We need one another.

A label/promoter/artist’s responsibilities:

    Get DJs/Radio shows new music
    Provide information as needed (news, press, tour info etc)
    Communication
    Request play lists and reports for everyone who receives music

A DJ/Radio programs responsibilities:

    Process, ingest and test new music
    Challenge your listeners with play list diversity (fun/serious, pop/indie… variety)
    Communication
    Report play lists to everyone who sends you music

For those of you who are members of record pools, report. If you have a direct relationship with any record labels or promoters, give them the information directly. These people are your life line to music. You could always buy it but you should never have to. There is nothing better than an awesome working relationship between a DJ and a record label or promoter. It makes things a bit more fun for everyone and it feels good at the end of the day. Plus it’s a great way to promote your show and also score paying mobile gigs. If someone calls me an asks for a DJ to spin their 10,000 person event, guess who I’m going to recommend? The most professional and consistent few DJs I know.

A good report looks like this:

    Personal notes, greetings, show highlights etc
    Your contact information and info about when/where your show airs
    A list of everything you played (in play order or alphabetically by artist)

Get into the habit of sending it right after your show airs. If you’re a label, schedule time to communicate with your contacts twice a month (or weekly if you have enough useful info to share). Everyone… make a contact list. A spreadsheet even.

A quick note on mass emails… use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy). Seriously. Nothing more annoying than having someone jack your list or hit “reply all” to spam your relationships with their stuff. It’s very unprofessional on both ends.

If you don’t know how… ask for help!

You’re nodding your head right now in agreement. Good. Now get down to it and DO IT. I am going to!

SERVICING

I’ve been on both ends… receiving and sending out music. This one is real simple. Find out what people need and provide it. Make it easy. If I have to jump through all sorts of hoops, I’m deleting your email.

Relationship is forgiving. If your approach is to be super casual (read: sloppy) with people you don’t have a good working relationship… YOU ARE DOOMED. Don’t do it. Spell check your email. Read it aloud. Bullet points are nice. Clear and easy. Visually attractive emails are cool too but isn’t what will score you airplay or more music from your favorite rep.

Learn what the other side needs and find efficient plus effective ways to deliver. We’re all busy. I skim your emails. Not because I don’t care but because I don’t have a ton of time like I wish. If I did have the time, it’s probably just going to be filled with something other than email.

Do not just add people to your list! It’s incredibly annoying, unprofessional and… annoying! Perhaps the email contact isn’t the best one to be sending your reports to. Ask. Perhaps your email blast about a single is going to a DJs work email… not good. Ask.

If your contact information changes or needs updating please tell people about it. No wonder you aren’t getting music from me… you’ve changed email accounts a bunch of times and (woops) forgot to tell me! I (as a radio promoter) want to stay in touch… trust me.

What does a label need for servicing?

Your contact information and anything they need to know about your show/audience. Keeping this available to them and current will pay dividends. Discuss how you’ll report and if they have any special requirements.

They also need to know if you prefer hard copy or digital. Keep in mind, most labels just aren’t sending out hard copy material anymore. It’s mostly about costs. Don’t take it personal. In the last 10 plus years I’ve sent out tens of thousands of promos. Looking back, I probably should have been more selective. I sent music to a lot of people who… well… I didn’t know if they were even alive because they never communicated with me.

What does a DJ or radio program need for servicing?

Information about the artist (link to the bio), access to hi-res album covers and press shots (a link to your Media section will do), a download copy of the song. Some require lyrics before they will consider it for airing. Your contact information is good to make available.

RECORD POOLS

If done well, these can be effective in helping DJs get music and help record labels reach more DJs. Personally, I haven’t had much success. Secular record pools have always been awesome for me.

I keep hearing that I’ll receive feedback on stuff I’ve sent out but… don’t often see much follow through. I’ve jumped through all the hoops to submit music (even sending boxes of CDs) and it hasn’t turned out so well. Lots of work to do here. My experiences with Christian pools have been discouraging to the point where I question their purpose. Hopefully that will change.

PROFESSIONALISM

I’ve already mentioned quite a few things to keep in mind. Being professional can foster some really awesome relationships and opportunities.

Do what you say you’re going to do.

I hear a lot of excuses but don’t see much positive growth. It makes me wonder if “this” will ever work or if it’s fixable. Prove my doubts wrong.

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10 Responses to What Is Wrong With Christian Hip-Hop Radio and DJs

  1. WOW! This is a great blog. Very instresting, convicting (if you’ve been a part of the problem LoL) and insigtful way of putting the biz out there. And what’s really sad, is that you didn’t really touch on the spiritual aspect of why the music isn’t good. Shame on our genre. smh.

  2. Josh says:

    Thanks for checking out the blog. Glad it resonates. Just dropped you a line with a question I had.

  3. Josh says:

    Ive seen a few improvements in pockets but it’s only because I insisted a few people hook it up. Hoping 2011 is a good one in this area.

  4. @DwainIBe says:

    Very well-written and a lot to digest here. In my opinion for whatever its worth, from the fanbase point of view, is simply that the radio stations prefer to play it ‘safe’.

  5. DJ Will says:

    I will be the 1st 2 say that Josh is on it and being a DJ I was saying these exact things 2 DJs. But then I DROP THE BALL ON SOME OF THESES!
    Thank U Josh for exposing the real. And if U would help me get back on track and I speak 4 myself, I CAN DO BETTER!!
    Letz make it happen. Put me back on the list and letz see if I deliver !!
    Everybodys Favorite Cuzn DJ Will from Jacksonville

  6. Josh says:

    DwainIBE – Word. That’s a very true and valid point. From my experience I’ve seen the format be willing to take chances IF someone were willing to hold their hand a bit and if the labels/artists stepped their game up. Neither has really happened outside of a few isolated instances in the last few years.

    The reaction from “us” (artists, DJs, record labels etc…) has been to create our own format. Case in point, there are a gazillion podcasts that come and go.

    I guess that’s where the challenge lies… mobilizing fans on one side and the scene on the other (if we collectively pull our act together).

    Thanks for the comments!

  7. Josh says:

    Will – much love to you brother. I feel a strong sense of conviction about this stuff so I’ll continue to keep pressing the issue. Thank you for understanding my heart in that way and for not just ignoring it ;) I simply want to be an agent of change.

  8. Well done, Josh. This was very informative. Thank you.

  9. @DwainIBe says:

    Meant to get back to this earlier, but my biggest issue w/radio is that it doesn’t showcase anything ‘new’. Just recycled stuff – especially in Christian radio. Unless, that particular artist is in town performing. I’ve ‘discovered’ more artists via twitter & ‘word of mouth’ lately. It seems sometimes that radio has become obsolete which I find very sad.

  10. Josh says:

    DwainIBE – Yes. The format of Christian radio is designed to be “safe” and doesn’t take many risks when it comes to programming. The downfall of being relevant to younger listeners is that most of the format is listener supported. 15 year old kids aren’t paying for music much less supporting their “listener supported” radio station. Their parents and grand parents are… and those people don’t always understand or like rock or hip-hop music.

    I wish the entirety of Christian radio would be more into challenging their listeners rather than worried about losing financial supporters. I understand the dynamic but it’s something that should be pressed.

    Word on radio becoming obsolete. It will be if the current trends continue.

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